After a couple of years struggling to push around a massive touring bike my dad has decided it’s time to downsize. After looking at several options (mostly mid-larger displacement cruiser bikes since that’s what he’s into) we’ve decided the best option is to downsize to what we already have - the bike I’m currently riding, a Yamaha/Star Motorcycles VStar 950. That would leave me with...no riding option other than the back seat of said bike or to take turns. Coupled with low Craigslist interest on the massive tourer and a lack of desire to go through the hassles of private sales, we’ve decided the best option is to trade the tourer in for a welterweight or middleweight bike for myself. So I’ve been doing research (including asking around here) and seeing what’s available out there. Here’s a few things about what that experience has been like.
As a part of this arrangement my dad’s established a few ground rules I need to follow:
- The budget is entirely dependent on the trade-in value of the tourer, which places it at about $7,000 optimistically (yes, these things depreciate worse than a Mercedes with the letters “AMG” followed by the number 6 and a manufacture date back to when Saddam Hussein was still alive).
- It has to have support from an extensive local dealer network, due to some bad experiences we’ve had with brands that are only supported by one or two dealers in the entire frickin’ state.
- It has to have an upright riding position - the legs can’t be too far forward but at the same time I don’t want to be leaning against the handlebars. We ride on long, flat roads for hundreds of miles in one go. For the people who keep trying to convince me to get a CBR or a Gixxer, yeah, whatever. I can get those some other time. For all the people who complain about cruiser-style bikes they do score major comfort and endurance points when corners are nonexistent and the CG advantages of sport bikes end up becoming a waste.
- That said I want something at least somewhat sporty and, again, legs not too far forward. Something that would be good for urban riding or commuting when I do get bored of endless straight flats. So, ideally, something that combines some features of a sport bike and some features of a standard bike. Once upon a time these bikes used to be called “standard” bikes before a combination of marketing and the simple-mindedness of the consumer caused everything to be either a sportbike (or sportbike lookalike) and a cruiser (and yes I have an extremely low opinion of the American consumer, feel free to convince me that I’m wrong, though I doubt you can).
- Perhaps most importantly it has to keep up at 65-75 MPH while still being comfortable. Any sportiness or tight-turning ability that comes with that would be a pleasant bonus, but merely a bonus nonetheless.
- Oh, and it still needs to be light enough that I can haul it up the driveway without fear of dropping it.
- Finally it has to have fuel injection. I had carberated bikes before. They sucked. Think I suck in turn because of this? Deal with it; I know I can.
- It has to be available from a dealership, new or used, as we’re trading in and don’t want to deal with whatever stupidity private sellers want on trades.
- Oh, and it can’t be an adventure bike. I’ve tried to convince my dad that it should be an adventure bike. He thinks they’re stupid. He’s the one paying for it, so I’m stuck with having to conform to his opinion.
With that criteria in mind, I set out to see what’s out there that best fits. This is what I came up with.
The Reject Pile
Yamaha/Star Motorcycles VStar 950
This is the bike I currently ride right now, and as I said the bike my dad will downsize to. It’s been repeatedly referred to in motorcycle-centric media as a starter bike and, by people who don’t understand how derisive and offensive such language is, “a woman’s bike” (although, granted, we did indeed purchase the bike from a female rider - who upgraded to a Silverado). I’ve written about this bike before (you can see pictures of the exact same bike in the aforementioned post). With a long wheelbase and heavy frame, the design purpose of this bike outright confounds me. The frame is so long, in fact, that engineers clearly anticipated the floorboards for the footrests scraping frequently by including replaceable skidplates. How long is it? The wheelbase is identical to the 1800cc touring bike we’re trying to dump. Yamaha pumps up the all-steal full cruiser-style frame and even the all-steel fenders as opposed to the plastic for fiberglass fenders often found on Japanese cruiser bikes - and all of this adds up to one heavy, awkward-riding mo’fo. Consequently that 948cc V-Twin engine and five-speed transmission struggle to lug this thing at even moderate highway speeds. Clearly, this thing is taking a shot at all the stereotypes Wes and Sean complain about Harley riders and living down to their expectations, but with a comparatively tiny engine and a confusing, nonsensical package that sacrifices absolutely everything else for its baroque, almost parody-like styling. Perhaps the best automotive analogy would be if a Toyota Avalon were disguised as a Miata - reliability is bulletproof and operation is dead-simple, but it still begs the question why?
I hate this bike. It represents and encapsulates all the stupid, derpy trends and developments associated with cruiser bikes.
Ducati Scrambler/Scrmabler 62
This is probably the most recommended bike based on Oppo responses. With a light frame, 800cc+ water-cooled “L” (really a “V” mounted at a weird angle but whatever) engine, wet clutch and an actual “Standard”-like riding position this probably most perfectly fits all my criteria of every bike out there, but its lack of local dealership support makes it a complete non-starter.
But NotIn, you’re probably saying, there’s a whole TWO dealers in the Denver area that sell and support these! Yeah, sure. One is clear on the other side of town and the other dealership sucks too much to make me want them to have my business (and if you’re going to say but it can’t be the one I’m thinking of because they don’t suck!, yes, they do. Trust me, if you’ve ever actually had to do business with them you’ll find out they. Suck.) Also, quite frankly, while the “full” Scrambler looks amazing on paper, the Scrambler 62's stats coupled with its price makes it look like a ripoff compared to bikes with similar horsepower output.
Screw that. Moving on.
Honestly, this is the bike I really want, bar-none. It compromises a little bit (actually a lot) more to the cruiser-style than the little Ducati but I feel its serious upgrade in comparative power more than makes up for it. Practically everyone on Lanesplitter raves about this bike, yes including Wes. While being unapologetically a cruiser it’s still more than sporty enough to satisfy what I’m looking for and will likely still not get pushed to its limits with my riding style and the roads I ride on. Plus, it’s just the best-looking mass-produced/factory cruiser you can buy brand-new right now, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, not only is it slightly out of the budget but again the lack of dealership network kills it from consideration. There is one dealership in the entire Denver Metro Area, and technically it’s not even in the Denver Metro Area. Is that a problem? Quite honestly yes, because quite honestly they suck. How much do they suck? They want me to submit to a credit check and get pre-approved for a loan just to take one out on a test ride (although this appears to be a very recent policy). While I can understand wanting to do that for a brand-new ultra-hyped bike they have the same policy for taking out stupid FZ-07s and Vulcan 900s on test rides, so yeah, screw that. This is also the same dealership where we’ve had our own bikes worked on in the past, and we’ve been less than satisfied with their work. Beyond that, I have to go all the way to Fort Collins (way the hell up north) to find another dealer. Beyond that, Grand Junction (located in the little sliver of Colorado that happens to be west of the Rocky Mountains, in the extreme western part of the state). Beyond that, I’m shopping for motorcycles in freakin’ Utah.
Indian Scout/Scout 60
Same bike as the Victory Octane (just reskinned for the Indian brand - or to be more precise, the Octane is a reskinned Scout for the Victory brand), same dealership issues/BS. The Scout Sixty would fit at the very upper extreme of the budget while still putting down enough power but, again, the dealership BS makes it a non-starter.
This bike makes me want to say Oh Man in a positive way, but with intimidation nonetheless. This is probably the most deceptive-looking bike I’ve ever ridden - it looks like the classic type of Japanese Standard/Universal Motorcycle your dad rode on new, but performance (and seating) wise it’s a legit liter superbike. Quite frankly, I just simply lack the proper education and riding experience to handle one, especially regarding its true supersport-like riding position without wearing out my forearms.
Is this thing even out yet? I can’t even find one. Most of the dealerships I’ve talked to haven’t even heard of it.
Quite honestly, I just prefer the FZ-07.
Oh God No. Ewww. Someone warned me about this bike - that the riding position is too low. I scoffed and I was like, how is that even physically possible? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Well guess what, it is. You don’t ride on this bike, you crouch down on it. In fact, the way I described it to the salesperson was “like playing Call of Duty entirely in the prone position.” Clearly, this bike was meant to roll out of the factory with ape hangers (which oddly enough seems to be an option completely absent other than on the aftermarket). Alternatively, it’s meant to emulate a true Cafe Racer riding position, but it just comes off as incredibly awkward with this bike’s still solidly cruiser-like ergonomics. Quite honestly as far as ergonomics are concerned this is one of the derpiest bikes I’ve ever ridden.
At this point I’m pretty convinced that the chief of design for Yamaha’s cruiser bike division is a Harley Davidson-branded leather jacket, with extra tassels glued on.
Royal Enfield Bullet 500
On paper this bike just seems so classic and badass at the same time. One day I’d like to own one regardless. It’s fuel injected and has optional kick/electric start on the same exact frame, depending on what you just happen to feel like. Unfortunately I’m not in the mood to have a single-cylinder thumper as my near sole riding option right now, plus buying a new one means going all the way to frickin’ Utah again.
Aside from the Ducati Scrambler and Victory/Indian this is probably the most recommended bike. Yet, oddly enough - and this is going to sound weird - but I can’t find one at dealerships right now.
Any Adventure Bike
Colorado has plenty of mild gravel or pebble roads that make adventure bikes a strong consideration. Unfortunately, and again, my dad’s convinced that, for whatever reason, adventure bikes are stupid. He’s the one paying the bills, so oh well. Plus admittedly they are a bit tall for what I’m looking for. I rode what was in effect a proto- or street-only adventure bike (a modified version of that frame in fact is still manufactured by Yamaha as an adventure bike) and I just ended up dropping it all the time.
Of The Next Three Bikes, I’m Probably Riding Home on One of Them
It’s a bit tall for what I’m looking for, and honestly more than a little intimidating (it’s been a while since I’ve ridden a bike that revs this readily) but it’s probably not something I can’t get used to. It’s also on the upper end of the budget as it stands. But it’s a great bike for people wanting to transition from cruisers or small-displacement bikes into something that straddles the line between a true standard bike and a true sportbike. Still very far away from being a true balls-out streetfighter, it’s probably one of the best naked bikes on the market now, especially given the relatively very low barriers to entry.
Kawasaki Vulcan S 600
I rode this way the hell back in December and didn’t like it. People have come back to me and informed me that if the riding experience was that horrible, something went wrong. I got an opportunity to test ride it again and I’m pretty convinced the first dealership I rode it from simply didn’t prep it correctly (or the cold December day may have been a factor).
It doesn’t compromise perfectly between a sport and a cruiser bike, perhaps not as perfectly as Kawasai wants you to think, but it’s hardly a bad compromise. It feels like...something not as sporty as a Miata but much more sporty than a Chsyler 200 or Toyota Solara convertible. Maybe like a Mini? The suspension felt a little stiff for me but I have a feeling I’d prefer a little stiff to the soulless and completely devoid of life soft riding experience I’ve gotten used to. Second time around, I had fun riding this bike which is why I list it under the header I did. Only problem is the friction zone is very, uh, finnicky on the example I rode and I stalled out multiple times.
Quite honestly this is probably the bike I’ll be riding home. Peter Black (yes that one) told me the ride like a dog but meeeeeehhhhh. Again I’m not looking for a hardcore supersport bike anyway. It’s already much more sporty than both the bikes I’ve been riding most of my riding life and the bikes it’ll need to keep up with. It...certainly rides like a Honda and in this case that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s very easy and forgiving while still giving a modicum of sport pretenses (more so than cruisers at least) and it’s a great bike to upgrade to from very low-displacement, 250-500cc low-revving cruiser bikes or even fresh out of a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. Though the Vulcan S currently ties very closely with this bike, the CTX 700, for as pedestrian as it is, just hits all the right notes for me.
Plus, especially with the Honda Dream Garage sales event going on now, they can be had for crazy cheap.